The graveyard shift !

Earlier this week I posed the question “Am I mad?”. In 2013 I was invited to choose between the regular YMCA sleepout undercover at the Pirelli football stadium or the extreme sleepout in the graveyard of St Modwens Parish Church.


My response was that I was too old for the extreme but here I am 5 years later on the verge of my 60th birthday sleeping in that very same graveyard: well I use the word 'sleeping' loosely as having chosen my spot carefully, laid the groundsheet and got into my sleeping bag I managed to grab roughly an hours sleep before waking up to find the constant rain had worn the box down even with the tarpaulin over it. Consequently I now have a very wet sleeping bag and pillow.


I'm grabbing half an hours dryness before I get another cardboard box and try again in the hope that the rain will ease off.


What have I learned from this ? Firstly slipping on the wet grass and twisting my knee slightly isn't helped by then having to sleep on hard, unforgiving and uneven ground.


Secondly, Gods creation is beautiful but also powerful. Rain and wind make lethal foes, and ultimately humanity cannot control or even predict them accurately.


Thirdly, and most importantly I'm only out here one night in the year. Tonight in Burton alone will be at least 12 rough sleepers who won't have a bath, a bed and a hot drink to return to in the morning. Instead all they'll face is another long day followed by sleeping rough again. Worse, all this in the knowledge winters coming and the weathers going to worsen.


Im very fortunate: I have a house, food,, friends and family to return to: others haven't and this is why I'm doing this again for the 6th time and why I'll do it again next year. I'll become uncomfortable again because others will benefit and perhaps they'll be given hope.




Only two more sleeps to go and then Im into my annual sleep out for the YMCA, which this year will be very different. Why ? because I’m doing the Extreme sleep out in the graveyard of a local Church. Most years I’m under the cover of a stand in the Pirelli football stadium, but this year it will be outdoors, cardboard box and bubble wrap only.

And its started raining today, hard !!!

Quite a number of folk have said I’m mad, and maybe they’re right, but I think its for a good cause. My desire to help goes right back to the time when, as a trainee Minister, I was sent to London to work amongst the homeless. Ever since the Whitechapel Mission has held a special place in my heart. I remember Alison and I arriving on the Sunday morning to meet the Minister and to be taught the ropes. I remember prior to the morning worship looking our of the 1st floor Church window down into the street. Over the road in a bank doorway was a bundle of rags.

As we watched a dog came along and urinated on the bundle of clothes. Then…….a hand came out and shoo’d the dog away.Thats when I realised that there was a human being under the bundle of rags; a woman gradually emerged and suddenly I saw the Minister of the Church, dressed in his white cassock ready for worship, emerge from the door below us; he went across the street and took the woman by the hand holding her close to his side he led her back to the church, where she could get warm and she shared int he worship. I’ll never forget his pristine white cassock was grubby all the way down the side he’d held her but he carried on with worship nevertheless. It spoke volumes to me, that life is tough, grimy and grubby and that grubbiness has to be reflected in worship somehow; worship cannot exist in a vacuum but true worship is both in the reality of life and the sacredness of Heaven.

So often we try to pretend that worship is only on a Sunday morning, dressed in our finery, doing and saying all the ‘right’ things which more than often please us rather than God necessarily, but I think that true worship is about more than our choice of hymns; its about living out our faith in the community around us; its about more than comfortable Sunday attendance, its about an uncomfortable lifestyle of seeking to help others.

Much of this week is being spent at Winshill Methodist Church where the members have opened the building to display a “River of poppies” installation alongside other Remembrance memorabilia. I have met members of the public who don’t attend the Chapel, youngsters from the local assisted learning project, elderly folk from a variety of nursing and care homes, had conversation about an autism support group using the premises and open to my visiting, as well as meeting folk who simply want to sit quietly and remember.

What a contrast, sleeping outdoors to sitting in Church meeting people ! However, this is real life, the horror of war, the striving for peace, recognition that others have bought our freedom, sacrifice. Ultimately that’s what its all about.

On Friday night I’ll be sacrificing my warm comfortable bed to sleep (probably in the rain), in a graveyard; in our remembrance we think of the sacrifice of our armed forces and alongside them, our police, ambulance etc who give of themselves in terrifying situations.

And I think of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave of himself wholeheartedly for each of us on the cross, “I have come that you might have life, life in all its fullness”(John 10:10) Out of sacrifice comes life and hope. I truly believe that the sacrifice of many in years gone by (whether intentionally or otherwise) has allowed me to have freedom in my life and that’s why I’ll be wearing my poppy and sharing in the act of remembrance on Sunday. Similarly I firmly believe that by my fundraising for YMCA some will have a better life. At the moment my fundraising stands at virtually £600 and that will provide a moving in or out bedding kit for 30 people or numerous replacement birth certificates which will allow residents to access health services and benefits. In other words every penny I raise will help someone in some way.

Thirdly, I firmly believe that my Lord Jesus has shown his love for me and released me into working for him by showing that same love to others. What a privilege.

If anyone wishes to support me in the sleep out you can do so by the following link, and certainly by praying for my safety and the safety of the others with whom I’ll share the graveyard.…/showROFundraiserPage…